Strategic Plan Development in the Education

Case

A proper strategy can be listed among the most important things for any organization because it often happens that a company possessing enough resources to improve its positions in the market fails to do so due to unreasonable decisions made by the management.

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Strategic planning is a topic that attracts many researchers who are interested in analyzing the process of planning to define the best technology for organizations. According to many opinions, strategic planning is a process that also needs to be planned to avoid procrastination (Reeves, 2009). There are different opinions on the basic elements of the strategic planning process. In her work, Hinton (2012) explains the most relevant problems related to strategic planning and provides her recommendations on the implementation of each step. The book focuses on the strategic planning process for educational institutions because the latter has a range of distinctive features. Speaking on the topic of planning, it is necessary to say that the author identifies a few essential elements that constitute the basis of the strategic planning process and increase the chances of an educational institution to succeed.

Among these elements, it is possible to define the mission statement that is supposed to explain why the organization exists and how it attempts to improve a certain aspect of the life of human society. According to the author, mission statements used to present very long, “exhaustively detailed descriptions” touching upon the history and the culture of an organization, but, over time, it became clear that detailed mission statements could not be the base for effective strategies (Hinton, 2012, p. 9). Therefore, the mission statement which is one of the essential elements of the strategic planning process should be short and indicate only the basic information.

More than that, the author of the book singles out such elements related to the strategic planning process as values of an organization. The values statement is a part of a strategic plan which touches upon the most important principles defined by the founders of an organization. The values statement remains an essential part of a strategy because prospective business partners of a company usually evaluate it to define possible conflicts of interest (Muswazi & Alman, 2016). Values of an organization are usually reviewed according to their priority.

Another essential element that is peculiar to the process of strategic planning in educational institutions is the vision statement. Institutional vision can be called one of the key elements of the plan because it defines the direction of further development of an organization. Thus, the vision statement presents a clear and detailed description that explains the plans identified by the management of an organization. In other words, this part of a strategic plan should include a comprehensive description of the situation the organization would like to achieve in a particular timeframe. The vision statement is an element that needs to be supported by numerous members of the executive management; thus, a vision statement based on the personal opinion of one specialist cannot be called appropriate.

Apart from that, the author highlights the importance of such elements as the set of goals and objectives. This portion remains extremely significant for the success of the entire plan because it defines the particular actions to be taken. Evaluating this element, one is supposed to distinguish between the terms because the word “objectives” is used to denote an intention that is rather general whereas the “goals” are presented by more precise statements including information on timely performance and the desired results that can be measured.

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Defining institutional goals present another essential element related to the strategic planning process, and it differs from the previous part as it touches upon the development of the organization. Defining strategic goals and objectives is pointed at developing the steps to be taken to adapt to the environment and promote products or services. At the same time, institutional goals are related to the growth of the organization, career enhancement of employees, and improving the work environment.

To continue, the author of the guide discusses another element related to strategic planning in educational institutions – the implementation plan. The given statement is usually available only for specialists from an institution as the open access to such information can pose a threat to the competitive ability of a company (Albon, Iqbal, & Pearson, 2016). The implementation plan includes the information on goals and objectives and adds the data on necessary resources and steps to be taken to reach the goals. More than that, it should contain precise information on specialists responsible for each task.

The next essential element identified by the author is the annual cycle assessment. The given element related to the strategic planning process can be regarded as one of the basic tools which enable strategic managers to keep track of the progress made by an organization. Speaking about the nature of this element, it needs to be said that it involves a few steps; to conduct the annual cycle assessment, specialists are expected to choose dates when the achievements and performance of a company will be reviewed. Usually, the assessments are conducted at the beginning and the middle of the planning year. In the first case, the committee holds a meeting to assess the results of the previous year to identify and take into account possible mistakes. As for the middle-year assessment, it is conducted to ensure that the goals are achieved.

Making a report on the practical outcomes of the strategic plan is another significant element of strategic planning – during this procedure, members of the planning committee summarize the data retrieved with the help of the assessment and document the outcomes, including even those accomplishments that were not specified in the original plan.

In the end, it is important to note the element related to strategic planning which involves evaluation of the effectiveness of a plan. During this stage which is strictly interconnected with the previous ones, members of the strategic planning committee review the final results of the year and make a statement concerning the effectiveness of the proposed strategy. This stage is usually implemented before the development of the new strategy, and it helps to summarize the results and use them as a basis for the new strategy in case of success.

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As for the elements that are the most difficult to implement, I suppose that they are represented by setting goals and objectives, developing the implementation plan, and setting values. Speaking about the third element, the difficulty lies in the fact that values should align with the previous performance of an institution because any contradictions are detrimental to its social image. Defining goals, objectives, and implementation plans may be challenging tasks as they need to be preceded by a thorough analysis of the market and performance of a company. To continue, these elements define the success of the entire plan which deprives strategic managers of room for mistake.

SLP

The educational institution which has been chosen for the analysis is the University of Maryland. The university is located in College Park in Maryland and is regarded as the largest one in the state. The educational institution was established more than one hundred and fifty years ago, and its name has been changed twice; before 1920, it was called a State College. Nowadays, the university possesses a well-developed infrastructure that is constantly perfected. For instance, a modern laboratory was constructed seven years ago. About the educational services provided by the University of Maryland, it is important that the institution offers more than two hundred graduate and undergraduate degrees in different fields of study. Another reason to analyze the strategy of this very institution apart from its popularity is its transparency which helps it to attract young talents.

The specialists from the University of Maryland pay increased attention to the accessibility of relevant information, and the key aspects of their strategic plan which have been updated recently are available on their website. The current strategic plan of the university presents a revised version of the document which was created nine years ago. The improvements to the plan were made in 2016, and they were based on the findings from the special studies involving focus groups and surveys.

The Foundation of any strategic plan is presented by the mission statement of an organization (Gabriel & Farmer, 2009). In the case of the University of Maryland, the mission is to remain one of the most significant centers of education and research and provide talented students with an opportunity to make a contribution to the development of the state.

The next group of elements that should be presented in the strategic plan is supporting components. The values statement is extremely important for any educational institution as it can serve as a difference-maker for future students belonging to minority groups. As for the values indicated by the management of the chosen university, the educational institution supports inclusion, diversity, and equity. Protecting diversity, the University of Maryland is regarded as one of the LGBT-friendly institutions. Also, the importance of this core value is manifested in the readiness of the university staff to take appropriate measures if cases of racial discrimination occur. More than that, the institution pays attention to the discrimination of female students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and tries to prevent it. Obviously, the values declared by Maryland University make it attractive for students belonging to different social groups.

The management of the university sets a series of institutional goals which are supposed to make it able to fulfil its primary mission. Thus, the educational institution intends to continue providing extended opportunities for students to improve the quality of undergraduate education. More than that, it aims at building a culture of excellence in many fields that will encourage students to achieve better results. Another important goal set by the administration is to support and improve infrastructure that encourages active information exchange of the particular schools and, therefore, provides instructors and students with extended opportunities. To continue, the University of Maryland sets a goal to support the inclusive and diverse environment that welcomes instructors and students of different ethnicities and social positions. Finally, the management of the discussed organization would like to establish an effective partnership with a great number of organizations in order to promote education among citizens of the entire state and increase the effectiveness of numerous international programs launched by the University of Maryland. As it can be seen from these statements, the primary institutional goals of the university are inextricably connected to improving the quality of education and supporting a positive work environment.

Vision is another important component of a strategic plan of an educational institution. As for the vision of the University of Maryland, its management is planning to make it one of the leading educational centers, capable of providing competition to large universities in other states. When it comes to the vision statement, the representatives of the institution make special reference to the quality of educational services and the positive environment which is expected to encourage instructors and students to break new ground in their fields of study. The vision expressed by the members of the organization reflects the primary values that serve as a beacon of excellence. Speaking about the components of the strategic plan itself, it is important to note that they include statements indicating the goals and objectives of an organization. In the case of the University of Maryland, strategic managers single out a range of goals related to different areas of focus and fields of study although some researchers suppose that numerous goals are detrimental to the development (Butler, 2008). Thus, they have developed eight independent sets of goals and objectives which refer to educational services, scholarship, collaboration with subdivisions of the university located in other cities, arts and cultural sector, college sports, promotion of primary values, administrative modernization, and encouragement of economic development in the area (“Equal to the best: 2016 strategic plan update for the University of Maryland,” 2016). As for the former component of this part of the strategic plan, educational services, it is important to note that the updated goals related to the area include the development of the plan, preparing graduates for their further careers. What is more, it is planned to improve collaborative learning and create more comfortable learning spaces for students by 2022. Another goal that is supposed to propel the education in the University of Maryland to the next level is the introduction of training programs for students helping to prepare peer mentors and future leaders. The report on the updated strategic plan of the university contains detailed descriptions of the goals and objectives which enable prospective students to stay informed about the future plans of the institution and make an informed decision.

Speaking about the implementation plan outlined in the materials from the official website, it is important to note that the report does not contain the full information, the data on the time frame and the individuals responsible for the task is missing due to obvious reasons. Nevertheless, the implementation section describes eight tasks in a detailed way and explains the particular problems to be solved. Thus, the goal related to the renovation of learning spaces needs to be fulfilled by solving the problems with lighting, noise in the classrooms, and seating. Other sections of the implementation plan also refer to the actions to be taken to improve the quality of educational services and promote the key values of the university.

In the end, the University of Maryland demonstrates its interest in propelling the education process to the next level as is clear from their updated strategic plan. Despite its information value, it is difficult to evaluate the plan as some information is confidential.

Discussion Question Assignment

The strategic planning process should be performed about the outcomes for the particular groups of people who present clients or business partners (Aquino, 2014). When it comes to strategic planning in the organization that has been chosen for the analysis, the University of Maryland, it can be necessary to define the key stakeholders who need to be given the right to participate in the process and protect the interests of their group.

I suppose that it would be the most appropriate and, what is more important, the progressive decision to involve all interested parties in the planning committee of a strategic plan. Obviously, strategic managers and the top team of the University of Maryland are supposed to make the final decisions related to contradictory questions and points of the plan. Despite that, it is necessary for them to provide other stakeholders with an opportunity to voice their opinions and share the experience related to innovations and their outcomes. To be more precise, it would be important to choose a few specialists representing the faculty staff because it is critical to take into account the experience of instructors working with students. Importantly, by applying their knowledge in education science, they will be able to develop and propose specific measures aimed at improving the academic performance of students and attracting more people to take part in extra-curricular activities.

To continue, the representatives of students (for instance, the best students from the university) should be able to participate in the strategic planning process. Their opinion on innovations and their outcomes is also critical because the decisions that involve difficulties or inappropriate academic workload may lead to the outflow of prospective students.

References

Albon, S. P., Iqbal, I., & Pearson, M. L. (2016). Strategic planning in an educational development centre: Motivation, management, and messiness. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, 9, 207-226.

Hinton, K. E. (2012). A practical guide to strategic planning in higher education. Web.

Muswazi, P., & Alman, S. (2016). Strategic planning: International online collaboration. International Information & Library Review, 48(1), 74-79.

Reeves, D. B. (2009). Leading change in your school: How to conquer myths, build commitment, and get results. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Butler, K. (2008). Crafting strategic plans: Key principles to enhance K-12 leadership. Web.

Equal to the best: 2016 strategic plan update for the University of Maryland. (2016). Web.

Gabriel, J. G. & Farmer, P. C. (2009). How to help your school thrive without breaking the bank. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Aquino, K. C. (2014). The human side of the strategic planning process in higher education. Planning for Higher Education, 42(2), 94-96.

Strategic Plan Development in the Education
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